On Friday morning (1 November 2019) I Tweeted (screenshot):

[The original LPO Are Disputing article cited in that Tweet is here. I dashed off this post in about 15 minutes on Sunday morning to inject into the Twitter conversation. Apologies if some context is not clear.]

My Tweet gave rise to multiple related and robust conversations, especially about the the legal talent that BigLaw (large law firms) hire versus the talent that the Big 4 hire. And I suspect that alternative legal service providers align with the Big 4 for purposes of this talent conversation.

The conversations highlighted for me the question of whether the Big 4 can achieve substantially different results, costs, or outcomes by hiring the same legal talent as BigLaw does. Especially if the Big 4 hire lawyers trained by BigLaw for a few years (rather than hire the best talent right out of law school), as one participant report who works with the Big 4 reports.

So the question I have is why, if the Big 4 hire the same talent as BigLaw, including lawyers trained by BigLaw, can they expect different outcomes than BigLaw?

The Big 4 and ALSP likely say that they offer multidisciplinary teams, better technology and infrastructure, and more efficiency. If that is right and true, those factors can help alternatives to BigLaw win more high volume legal work. And indeed, that appears to be the focus of many Big 4 and ALSP. And only some BigLaw try to compete for that segment of work.

But if the Big 4 and ALSP want to go up upstream to the higher value work on which most BigLaw focus, at least with the way the world and legal writ large work today, they will need to do it with lawyers. And if they are hiring lawyers from BigLaw, I await an explanation of how and why they will offer more value deploying the same lawyers as do BigLaw. If the Big 4 has special sauce that lets them change the behavior and work habits of traditional lawyers faster than BigLaw can, I am eager to see the sauce or its taste (outcome).

With this post, I hope to foster a broader conversation about distinctions among different types of legal providers. Many legal market commentators assume the Big 4 and ALSP are different from and have better approaches than BigLaw. Perhaps. But perhaps not. Twitter today brought home that no one argues we don’t need any lawyers. And with lawyers still in the mix, I am waiting to hear how they will work differently outside of BigLaw.